Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Brett Favre Adds Another Chapter to his Legend and Another Clip to His Highlight Reel

Just when you think you've seen it all, Brett Favre uncorks an 82 yard touchdown pass on the first play of overtime to lift the Green Bay Packers to a 19-13 road win over the Denver Broncos. Jay Cutler had just driven Denver 89 yards in just 2:27 to set up a tying Jason Elam field goal as regulation time ran out. Then the Packers won the coin toss and Cutler never got on the field again.

Before the game, ESPN ran a feature showing Favre's greatest Monday Night moments; by the time SportsCenter recapped this game, that feature had a new ending. Believe it or not, this is Green Bay's first overtime road win since Howard Cosell's last Monday Night Football telecast (December 12, 1983). The only longer overtime TD pass is Ron Jaworski's 99 yard connection with Mike Quick in 1985. Speaking of the man once known as the Polish Rifle, Jaworski got a taste of what Favre can still do after asking him about the whispers that he has lost some arm strength. Jaworski later told ESPN viewers that Favre responded by planting his foot on the 50 yard line and firing a "laser"--Jaworski's word--that hit the pylon in the end zone (the game winning pass traveled 54 yards in the air).

Jayson Williams once compared Michael Jordan to a Doberman who you must never challenge or even look straight in the eye. Of course, Jordan is not the only competitor who feeds off of slights, real or imagined. So it is not at all surprising that Brett Favre bristled at the notion that he has lost any of his fabled arm strength. There have not been many opportunities for Favre to go deep due to Green Bay's anemic running game. As Favre said after this game, if you can't run the ball then play action fakes are useless. Fortunately for the Packers, Denver's run defense is terrible, so the Packers gained enough yardage on the ground for Favre's play action fakes to be meaningful; Ryan Grant, who had only six carries this season prior to Monday night, gained 104 yards on 22 attempts. Shut down cornerbacks Dre Bly and Champ Bailey are supposed to be the crown jewels of the Broncos' defense but Bly got burned on the game-winning pass and Bailey was torched on a 79 yard TD pass from Favre to James Jones in the first quarter.

Favre finished the game with these gaudy numbers: 21-27, 331 yards (his fourth 300 yard game this season), two touchdowns, no interceptions and a season-high 142.4 passer rating. The Packers are 6-1, tied with the more celebrated Dallas Cowboys for the best record in the NFC. Even Favre seems surprised at their reversal of fortune from last year's 8-8 record: "I feel like I've been on some better teams, but it's hard to doubt this team." The turnaround actually began with four straight wins to close out the 2006 campaign. At the time, those wins did not really seem to mean that much but in light of Green Bay's quick start this season it now looks like that is when the Packers' defense--the unheralded hero of Green Bay's season--began to jell, giving up only 42 points in those four contests. Road games on November 22 and November 29 against division rival Detroit and Dallas will go a long way toward showing if Favre's Halloween heroics are just a trick or if Green Bay's 2007 season will turn into a treat for the Cheeseheads.

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